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Creative Collaboration

As a writer, I’m used to being an island. And, by that, I don’t mean some tropical destination surrounded by water on all sides that sexy tourists come to visit. I’m more like a barbed, rocky, inhospitable place that essentially keeps everyone away by being difficult to reach.

I’m not that way all the time. Certainly not as a friend, confidant, teacher, actress, coach… But, when I’m in my writing headspace, I might as well wear a giant Keep Away! sign, because that’s what I want people to do.

Keep Away.

Leave Me Alone.

Stay Out.

Don’t Intrude.

Or, en español, No entre!

And, yet…

A few months ago, while on a writers’ retreat, my friend Jacqui asked if I’d be open to writing a novel with her. I said yes! I’m not sure why I said yes. I was (and still am) knee-deep in solo writing projects, as well as other individual and collaborative creative endeavors. Nevertheless, something inside me seemed to be whispering that it’d be good to build a bridge from my island back to civilization.

Jacqui and I joined forces. I’d write a chapter or two. She’d write a chapter or two. We’d swap. We’d have long-distance meetings courtesy of Zoom, during which we’d review and revise. I began to realize that there can be something exhilarating about feeding off someone else’s artistic energy.

This past weekend, Jacqui and I met in Washington, DC. We spent a few days plotting, editing, and alternately ignoring each other to write, and chatting about everything from our joint venture to the meaning of existence. My time working with my friend and fellow writer got me thinking about the dynamics of creative innovation. The danger of being an island is that islands can suffer from erosion, sinking, and climate-exacerbated storms. So, although I still thoroughly enjoy writing in solitude (and always will), I’ve begun to change the way I conduct myself as a writer and a person. And, surprise, surprise, I’ve been happier, more connected, and, ironically, more prolific.

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